Empathic listening does not work. Unless it is empathic listening.
About 15 years ago I had regular interactions with an acquaintance of mine of whom I had lots of enemy images and judgements, and our interactions were not easy. Life moved on in a way that we nowadays barely meet briefly every few years, yet I still remember a piece of wisdom that he articulated then, and I only started to appreciate lately. In the midst of complex and emotionally charged weeks of interactions, he said: “You see, one day, after all of this is passed, perhaps even on our death beds, we will end up opening hearts to each other and we will find out that we actually love each other. Why should we wait so long to realize that? Why not start treating each other in accordance with love that already is deep in our hearts?” The clarity and purity of this invitation hit me already then, but I did not want it to really hit me, so I kept pushing it away and out of our field. Quite successfully, I must say.
Lurking in the dark
Last morning, at a friend’s place here in North Germany, on the road trip from Sweden to Portugal, we ended up having a vulnerable conversation around breakfast. We were an Israeli Jew, a German and a Slav talking about wounds from the Second World War, individual and collective, that are still speaking through us. Listening to many subtle stories about how our collective fields have been traumatized by the war and by the holocaust, on all sides of the story, how we were culturally conditioned in using various strategies to deal with it, from dark humor to suppression and denial, something was becoming clearer and clearer to me.
Privilege of not being rapeable
When not travelling my base camp is an apartment just across the street of the large city park that borders a small forest, in Ljubljana. And the other day I went for a walk into the wood, around midnight, after having spent most of the day in front of the computer – to connect to nature and reset my inner system before going to sleep.
Just before stepping onto the tiny path that led straight in the peaceful darkness of the midnight forest, I saw a man standing on the parking lot, perhaps 20 meters away, looking straight at me. I did not give it a second thought and continued happily into the forest, enjoying solitude, silence, the softness of the whispering of the tree leaves… After about 15 minutes of walking through the forest I encountered a small clearing with a bench and I sat down to enjoy the view of the stars and the moon above. Suddenly I heard steps and that man appeared from the darkness of the forest, walked slowly towards me and stopped perhaps 3 meters away. It felt rather awkward and confusing for a few seconds of silence, and then he suddenly unzipped his pants.
Standing on the blood soaked soil
Today, at the last day of the 9-day International Intensive Training in Nonviolent Communication here in Indonesia, where I have an honour to serve as a trainer, we had a heart-shattering sharing in the morning circle.
A participant, aboriginal Australian, shared with us a story of massacres that his mother survived and told him about. White settlers were attacking the aboriginal tribes, killing peaceful tribal members, chopping their heads off. They were dragging children, tied to horses by their legs, through bush and piled them up, covered them with wood and burned them alive. There were many attacks on their tribe between 1918 and 1929.
Hoping for Another Step Towards the Inner Freedom
Yesterday I found myself, while visiting Israel, sitting in a circle around the bonfire with another 15 or so people, sharing our hearts. It was the eve of the Passover celebration, which is about commemoration of liberation from slavery in Egypt, under the leadership of Moses. One of the deeper meanings of the celebration of Passover is about noticing what is the inner slavery we have been carrying within ourselves and wish to get free from in this year. So we were sharing our fears, core beliefs, automatic responses, dilemmas, struggles… that we would like to liberate ourselves from in order to live our lives more fully.